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Published: Thursday, July 25, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

Pallets, straw bales provide alternative gardens

  • Pallet planting can be done anywhere any season of the year. (Photo courtesy McDonald Garden Center/MCT)

    Pallet planting can be done anywhere any season of the year. (Photo courtesy McDonald Garden Center/MCT)

  • This publicity photo provided by Cool Springs Press shows the cover of the book, "Straw Bale Gardens," by author Joel Karsten. Skip the grou...

    This publicity photo provided by Cool Springs Press shows the cover of the book, "Straw Bale Gardens," by author Joel Karsten. Skip the ground altogether and try planting fruits and vegetables in a bale of straw, suggests Karsten, an author, gardener and the leading evangelist of what's become a hot gardening trend this summer. (AP Photo/Cool Springs Press, Tracy Walsh/Poser Design)

  • In this publicity photo provided by Cool Springs Press, tomato plants flourish in straw bales lining the garden of Minnesota author, Joel Karsten. He ...

    In this publicity photo provided by Cool Springs Press, tomato plants flourish in straw bales lining the garden of Minnesota author, Joel Karsten. He is the leading evangelist of a straw-bale gardening movement that has become one of this summer's hottest gardening trends. (AP Photo/Cool Springs Press, Tracy Walsh/Poser Design)

When you don't have or want a traditional garden, you can still enjoy homegrown vegetables and herbs, thanks to some alternative ways of planting.
Here are two easy ones to try, and you don't need a yard to use them:
Pallet planting
Materials you need include a pallet, enough landscape fabric to line the pallet on both sides, vegetable or flower transplants, 1 cubic foot potting soil and fertilizer.
Here's how to plant a pallet, courtesy McDonald Garden Center in southeast Virginia.
Place the landscape fabric-lined pallet on end and fill with potting soil. Be sure not to pack too full so that the landscape fabric is bulging, but tap the soil down so it levels out, making sure to fill it to the top.
Pick out veggies, herbs, or flowers in annual packs to use for planting. Those in cell packs are smaller and easier to work with.
Cut the landscape fabric in the shape of an X to create a small hole or planting pocket and sprinkle in fertilizer.
Plant the edible or flower in the hole and push any excess soil up around the roots.
Space edibles out on each row of the pallet, about 3 inches apart.
Finish planting by adding edibles or flowering plants to the top of the pallet. These should be more vertical plants.
When watering, make sure the pallet is vertical with the open/top side up and slowly water every two to three days during spring or fall and daily during summer when soil dries out quickly.
Sometimes water may need to be added directly to young seedlings. Be sure to allow enough time for the water to seep down through the soil to get to the bottom plants.
Tip: You can either hang the veggie pallet on the wall or lean to display your vertical garden.
Straw bale gardening
The new book "Straw Bale Gardening" details how to grow vegetables anywhere: think patio, deck, porch, courtyard, driveway, parking lot, roof top or in the lawn.
Soilless, straw bales give you benefits to gardening, according to author Joel Karsten, a Minnesota-based garden author and University of Minnesota horticulture graduate, including:
  • All the advantages of a raised bed garden, including taller height, less compaction, back-friendly planting and convenient harvesting.
  • Fresh, insect- and disease-free growing media each season when you use new straw bales. Older ones can be composted or recycled.
  • Earlier planting time because as the new straw decomposes, it releases heat that's good for seedlings and transplants. Poly tent covers are easy to fashion to protect crops from night temperatures that drop too low.
His book features dozens of graphics and full-color photographs that show how to arrange straw bales -- five to 20 bales -- into single-row or intricate-style gardens that support the growing needs of diverse crops, including peanuts, cabbage, strawberries, tomatoes, carrots, beets, radishes, potatoes and lettuce.
He also shares how to condition the bales over 10 to 12 days, using water and fertilizer so the bale center decomposes to create the ideal environment for seeds and plants.
Planting mixes can be used directly on top of the bales to grow cool-season crops such as peas, beans and lettuces; trellising wire-type structures can also be used to support vining crops.
The 140-page book, which includes plant profiles for the best crops, is $20.
Story tags » Gardening

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